Would You Like a Second Third Cocktail?*

*Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Drink Responsibly Irresponsibly

With a tip of the hat to John Gruber, I present you Esquire’s Ryan D’Agostino and that third cocktail of the evening:


Empirically, there is no better number of drinks than three. Three drinks shoves you right up to the blurry border between you and drunkenness, a line in the sand that’s been washed over by a wave — you can still see it, but barely. It’s a thrilling place to be. You’re flying, feeling it, maybe spitting out the wrong word every now and then, maybe calling your sister for no reason, but you could still operate a forklift if you really had to. You can still hit the dartboard. One fewer and you’re drinking responsibly; one more and you’re walking on your knees and suggesting everybody go for karaoke.

The important thing is, you’re having the time of your life, but there’s no danger of missing the urinal when you take a leak. You feel fantastic, your cares have dissolved, and everyone is interesting. Every conversation is both funny and important. Good ideas seem brilliant. Semi-interesting theories fascinate. Plans are made, and they sound like fun. And if at the end of the night you get in a taxi and it goes the wrong way and you’re not exactly sure where you’re headed, everything will end up okay.

All of that, yes, wholeheartedly and unreservedly endorsed by one who has been there and done that and wouldn’t mind at all if he were being there and doing that right now.


(“Yes,” he added, “even at this early hour. You must be new here.”)

And now I am compelled to give you the Official VodkaPundit Addendum™ — because while what D’Agostino said is correct, like a single cocktail it isn’t nearly enough.

There are two tricks, and only two tricks, to being a seriously good serious drinker.

The first trick is hardly a trick at all, it’s so easy: Drink those first three cocktails quickly. I don’t mean you should guzzle them down like some freshman frat boy with his first beer bong and a team of sadistic sophomores cheering him on. A cocktail, after all, is ideally a civilized and civilizing experience. But don’t dawdle, either. Don’t let your martini get warm, or let your ice melt, or let your scotch just sit there feeling lonesome and unloved. (I once knew a delightful Catholic priest who told me there’s a special rung in Hell for people who orphan good scotch.)

It’s the second trick where things become… trickier.

It is then, at the finish of your third cocktail, when D’Agostino correctly states that “you’re having the time of your life,” that you must keep your wits about you just enough to slow things down.

Pause after your third cocktail. Spend some quality time with that “water back” you ordered with good intentions, but which you’ve left untouched thus far all evening. Step outside with that one friend who still smokes and steal a few drags or maybe even a whole ciggie. Make conversation, make friends, make for the appetizer menu. You’re in the Third Cocktail Zone — enjoy it.


Let your liver do its thing and metabolize some of that alcohol you pounded down over the last hour or so. Let your BA count, count down a few tenths. Then, and only then, do you order your fourth cocktail.

Your fourth cocktail is the one Chris Jones in the same Esquire piece says is “the gateway drink, the point of no return.” But if you take that refreshing pause, your fourth cocktail won’t be your fourth cocktail — it will be, and this is very important, your second third cocktail.

Now perhaps “second third cocktail” sounds to you like the kind of notion only a serious drinker, maybe even an incipient alcoholic, would come up with. And maybe you’re right, but I find it’s a vital distinction from “fourth cocktail,” which we can all agree really is nothing but trouble.

Your second third cocktail isn’t a point of no return — it’s an extension of that “thrilling place to be.” The second third cocktail doesn’t come easy — I was aiming for just that and overshooting it for years and years before I finally got good at hitting it. Youth and inexperience have lead many, perhaps millions, to going over the edge to the fourth cocktail when what they really wanted and needed was a second third.

But these days I only have a fourth cocktail when I mean to have a fourth cocktail. But mostly I enjoy a second third cocktail, and on rarer occasion a third third cocktail. If I started very early in the day, and we’re on the beach with nothing to do, I might even enjoy a fourth third cocktail. Your mileage may vary; closed course, professional drinker and all that.


To be perfectly honest, and I do hope my sons don’t read this before they have the age and experience and practice and skills necessary to make it work, and as my friends can attest, the second third cocktail is easily the best part of any successful evening here at Casa Verde.

So bottoms up, and enjoy as many third cocktails as your time and patience allow. And if you accidentally overshoot? Then maybe someday we’ll meet under the same table.



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